Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

LeBron James & Dwyane Wade: The new Dobermans

This appears in

The new Dobermans
by rick olivares

The Miami Heat opened their 2013-14 NBA season with a ring ceremony and a 107-95 beat down on a Chicago Bulls team that struggled from the field. That’s one down in an 82-game regular season schedule from October to June if they go all the way back to the NBA Finals for a fourth straight year.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

Watching the nifty crosscourt bounce pass from LeBron James to a cutting Dwyane Wade for a bucket, one of many in their three-plus years together, evokes a time-honored duo that wore the fire engine red colors of Chicago – Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen.

There isn’t any question about both duos’ – Jordan-Pippen and James-Wade – offensive brilliance. It’s on the defensive side of the court that I’d like to make this postulate that James-Wade are heirs to the Doberman duo of Jordan-Pippen.

To recap, former Chicago Bulls assistant coach Johnny Bach (1986-93, 2003) used to refer to Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen as “Dobermans”.

In Chicago’s “Doberman defense”, Bach utilized his players’ athleticism – most notably Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen – to maraud the passing lanes while setting traps. That defense helped the Chicago Bulls win six NBA titles.

James and Wade have won two titles together and they don’t look to stop any time soon.

The firepower at the hands of Miami’s one-two punch often makes fans and sportswriters forget that the two are just as capable defensively. The Heat superstars also have their credentials as defensive players.

Wade – 3x All-Defensive Second team (2005, 2009-10)
James – 5x All-Defensive First Team (2009-13)

On the other hand, the Chicago Bulls duo are more decorated defensively:
1988 Defensive Player of the Year
9x All Defensive First Team (1988-1993, 1996-98)

8x All-Defensive First Team (1992-1999)
2x All-Defensive Second Team (1991, 2000)

But this isn’t to denigrate LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, now both on their 11th year in the league, and have still have a lot left in their tanks. I think that right now, they are indeed worthy successors to the Jordan-Pippen duo.

Check out their cumulative stats from all their championship years as a duo. Jordan-Pippen (1990-93; 1995-98) while the James-Wade partnership is from 2011-13.

50.0 ppg
13.2 rpg
10.8 apg
4.2 spg
1.5 bpg
4.8 tpg

48.5 ppg
12.8 rpg
11.5 apg
3.6 spg
1.8 bpg
6.0 tpg

While observers note that Dwyane Wade’s defensive ratings have gone down, he remains a threat. Wade has made a career of raiding those passing lanes. While not a lockdown stopper, he does wreak havoc with his quick hands, game intelligence, and athleticism. Those were key ingredients or criteria for Bach’s “Doberman defense.”

With LeBron James, you have a player who is incredibly still getting better on both ends of the floor. And now, he is looking to really make a name for himself on the defensive end.

During last year’s playoffs, when Nate Robinson was torching the Heat, James took on the Bulls’ dynamo and shut him down.

Once the Heat got into the Finals, James, with the San Antonio Spurs spotting them a one-game lead, had three steals and superb block of Tiago Splitter.

They aren’t isolated incidents.

Synergy Sports reported that James guarded 833 individual sets last season. The offensive player took 688 shots and hit only 37.6% of those field goals!

In an interview with Heat coach Erik Spoelstra before the start of this season, the fourth year head coach told, “It would be great to see him (James) be acknowledged for the defensive work that he does. There’s no one else in the league that can do what he does. He’s been banging on that door, getting close. I don’t want it to be a campaign. It has to be earned. But he has that type of potential to be Defensive Player of the Year.’ Not since Michael Jordan has the best player in the league been this proficient on both ends of the floor. And Jordan, you could argue, played both sides as well as anyone who has ever laced up a pair of sneakers in a game in the NBA or anywhere else. James has the potential to do the same and has shown flashes of it throughout his career, particularly in the past three seasons.”

And as the time-honored saying goes, “Defense wins championships.”

Let’s see if the new millennium Dobermans can lead the Miami Heat to a third straight championship. 

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